SC clarifies why it handled Imran’s disqualification case differently than Panama Papers case

  • Mr Khan’s case was of acquisition of assets from legitimate tax-paid income: Justice Faisal Arab
  • Sources of acquiring several assets were not satisfactorily explained by the Sharif family: SC
Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – The Supreme Court that absolved Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan of all the allegations regarding the disqualification petition also narrated why the case was treated differently from the Panama papers case that led to the disqualification of Nawaz Sharif as premier.

In its 250-page judgment regarding the disqualification petition filed by Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz, an additional note by Justice Faisal Arab who was part of the three-member bench observed that Imran Khan did not incorporate offshore company Niazi Services Limited (NSL) to park assets acquired through embezzlement, bribery or tax evasion to keep them hidden from the public eye.

Comparing the case of Imran Khan with that of the Panama Papers case, Justice Arab observed that Mr Khan’s case was that of acquisition of an asset from legitimate tax-paid income earned abroad and that too at a time when he was a non-resident Pakistani holding no public office.

“Therefore, Imran Khan cannot be perceived with the same suspicion,” the note said, adding that usually those who assume power with the intention of indulging in financial corruption would always desire offshore companies to remain operational in order to conceal their ill-gotten wealth.

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Referring to the comparison being drawn between Panama Papers case and the petition filed by PML-N leader Hanif Abbasi’s, Justice Arab recalled that in Panama Papers case, serious allegations of money laundering, corruption and possession of assets beyond known sources of income were made against Nawaz Sharif.

The top court judge, who was not a member of five-judge bench that disqualified Nawaz Sharif, continued that the sources of acquiring several assets were not satisfactorily explained by the Sharif family, which included the purchase of four Avenfield flats in London, setting up of Azizia Steel Factory in Saudi Arabia, Gulf Steel Mills in Dubai and receiving Rs840 million on a regular basis over a period of four years from 2011 to 2015 as gifts from an entity called Hills Metals established in Jeddah by Nawaz Sharif.

The note stated that there was either no or very little explanation as to how these assets were built, who were the shareholders, what was the source of funds and how the funds were generated, adding that considering the high-profile office which Nawaz Sharif held over the years, accumulation of his monthly salary from Capital FZE was considered as concealment of an asset which led this court to hold Mr Sharif as dishonest.

‘The non-disclosure of unspent salary income, which had been accumulating for a period of time, was treated as concealment of asset in the Panama Papers case, whereas in the present case, the ownership of London flat was disclosed by Imran Khan in his nomination form filed in 2002 general elections’ the note added.

Justice Arab pronounced that honesty of a person prior to his position as a lawmaker could only be questioned if he had accumulated wealth through fraud, embezzlement, bribery or tax evasion and had been so declared by a competent court of law.

“In so far his dishonesty with regard to the assets acquired after becoming legislator, the same could be scrutinised by the court in the proceedings in the nature of quo warranto which would determine whether a case for the acquisition of assets beyond known sources of income was made out,” the judge remarked.

Justice Faisal Arab who was part of the bench headed by Chief justice Mian Saqib Nisar observed that concealment of an asset from the public eye that was acquired after entering public office, for which the member fails to give a judicially acceptable explanation, was to be treated as an act of concealment with dishonest intentions.

“This is the difference in attributing dishonesty with regard to an omission to disclose an asset acquired before and after becoming a member of the national or a provincial assembly,” Justice Arab observed.

The explanation riled Maryam Nawaz, daughter of former Premier Nawaz Sharif, who through a tweet, wondered why the judge deemed it necessary to clarify the difference, when he was not a part of the bench that heard Panama papers case.